Streetwear fashion can best be defined as contemporary casual clothing worn by urban youth subcultures. It’s a form of identity that takes aesthetics from a surplus of styles and themes, and turns these into an individual’s modern and unique style.
Some within the furore of the fashion world look upon streetwear as an all-encompassing umbrella of styles and themes, and one that has roots intertwined with the hip-hop music scene. Others see it as a playful remake on the outdoor athletic of sportswear, skate gear and surfwear. Whatever your viewpoint on its origins, it is clear that its inspiration can be taken from all around us and is representative of you, the individual.
The resurgence and increasing popularity of streetwear in the West, Europe and the Americas, for example, has been widely documented. Much of this has been down to the success of the skate and streetwear label Supreme and its collaborations with luxury fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Lacoste. Hot on the heels of this collaboration was the release of Off- White’s collection with Italian apparel manufacturer, Moncler, and more recently Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy’s collaboration with luxury British fashion brand Burberry.
But what about looking further afield? When it comes to streetwear, we can’t help but look to the East, the cutting-edge of casual cool. Not only is it where some of the most exciting, frenetic designers working today hail from, but the likes of Japan, China and South Korea have helped shape the entirety of the serious streetwear segment. Of course, if you have the balls to attempt that level of effortless cool yourself, you need to know where to start. That’s where we step in, showcasing five top brands you need to be aware of.
1. Kiks Tyo
Founded in 2006, KIKS TYO is a Tokyo-based casual streetwear and accessories company. Besides basics like tees and sweatshirts, they are also known for their indiscriminately cool accessories: hats, sunglasses, wallets, phone cases and bags. You name it; they’ve done it – and we want it.
2. A Bathing Ape
These guys need no introduction, but we’ll give them one anyway. A Bathing Ape, or more commonly known as BAPE, was founded in 1993 in the Ura-Harajuku district of Tokyo. You can find them collaborating with other brands as much as making their own stuff; they recently did an anniversary watch with Bell & Ross. They also dominate the hip-hop scene, working with the likes of Pharrell, Kanye West and A$AP Rocky.
Established in Hong Kong in 2003 by founders Edison Chen and Kevin Poon, Clot is part sneaker boutique, part streetwear brand and, as of their first New York Fashion Week, a fashion powerhouse. Their hallmark is blending modern sportswear and street styles with traditional Chinese fabrics. Through that lens they’ve reinterpreted Nike’s iconic Air Force 1 in a way that would suit a Mayfair boutique of Chinese antiquities. The brand has also worked on projects with Levi’s, Jerry Lorenzo and Fear of God. Expect to see a hell of a lot more of them in coming years.
4. Wacko Maria
First off, great name. Founded in 2005 by retired J-League footballers, Keiji Ishizuka and Atsuhiko Mori, Wacko Maria is a Japanese menswear brand that draws inspiration from music, film and art. That film must be Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, as loud Hawaiian shirts are a staple of the brand. They also have a penchant for elaborately-embroidered outerwear, with plenty of traditional Japanese artwork in Western styles. Its slogan ‘Guilty Parties’ typifies the brand’s edge.
‘The Bold Attitude, The Right Style’ is the motto of Singaporean-based Deblanc, and we’re not about to disagree. With their monochrome colour palette decorated with iconic graphics, the brand has been a favourite amongst the skateboarding clique since 2016. Iconic religious artworks are a mainstay of their fifth collection, enough to confuse the Catholic church at least. That said, a good part of their collection is as minimal as these things come. It’s kind of like a seasonally-changing capsule collection, small but perfectly formed – and seriously cool.
The streetwear party doesn’t appear to be slowing down, either; these five brands represent the tip of an iceberg that’s only getting cooler. The big powerhouse brands like Nike, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Moncler are always on the lookout for cutting-edge creatives, and this is where they find them. Luxury streetwear might already look like it’s here but trust us: it’s just getting started.